Middle East Blogger of the Year: Arabawy

Middle East Blogger of the Year: Arabawy


He is the quintessential loud-spoken quiet guy. An oxymoron, probably, but Hossam el-Hamalawy exudes these traits to preciseness. He gives credit where credit is due; he supports and assists when needed and he always speaks his mind. His Arabawy blog has garnered the attention of local and international observers, commentators and journalists all looking for that “authentic” piece of the Arab world. Hamalawy offers something that very few bloggers in the region can give: a perspective that may or may not be their own. He is a compiler, a giver and the person who gives time to discuss and argue contentious issues with others without reverting to name calling.

Overall, he is Bikya Masr’s Middle East blogger of the year because he gives without needing something in return. He has turned away from the infighting that has taken hold of the blogosphere in recent times and has held strong to his passion. He is someone all should look up to and respect, considering there are so many bloggers that do not deserve our respect and decency. Hamalawy has shown us that being a good person and being good at what one does do not have to be separated.

Bikya Masr: Bikya Masr has named you Middle East blogger of the year. How do you feel about this sort of recognition for your efforts?

Hossam el-Hamalawy: I am humbled, and thanks for the BM team who have shown interest in my blog.

BM: You have established yourself as one of the most credible bloggers in Egypt and across the Arab world, what is the secret?

HH: The same rules that applies for winning credibility in the MSM (Main Stream Media) also applies for Social Media: Accuracy in reporting, consistent fact-checking. But I think what distinguished my blog was the speed via which I managed to disseminate information, much faster on occasions than the MSM.

BM: Activism and blogging is often a contentious and tough world to delve into, how do you maintain your sanity?

HH: A good doze of Scandinavian melodic death metal is usually enough to maintain my sanity :). Seeing success or feeling a difference one managed to impact regarding some campaigns is usually enough to raise my morale.

BM: A number of bloggers have pointed that many are not open to real debate and support for others, but many people Bikya Masr talked with over the past year have said you, among many, are one of the few that supports others wholeheartedly. Would you agree?

HH: Tensions always run high between Egypt based bloggers. The internet is a fast medium where one responds almost instantaneously to what s/he sees as personal or political assault/attacks. That leads to knee-jerk reactions by some, which stifles debate. I’m personally guilty on occasions of over-reacting to criticism, I admit. Nevertheless, this has never affected my overall politics. My enemy is the state and not fellow bloggers. I think we need to invest more efforts into building a proper medium for resolving such disagreements, other than resorting to personal insults.

BM: What impact can blogging have in today’s world?

HH: Blogging provided a free platform for spreading ideas and info for the first time in Egypt and the Arab World. It’s something the Arab govternments are trying hard to co-opt or crackdown on, but I don’t see them succeeding. Under a dictatorship, the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.

BM: Where do you see online activism heading in the New Year?

HH: I can expect the rising trend in internet usage for political activism to only continue, at least in the field of the swift dissemination of information about the regime abuses and social resistance. My only hope is for “cyber-activists” not to lose touch with what’s going on the ground and not to isolate themselves in some virtual reality.

BM: Can bloggers be a catalyst for real change?

HH: Bloggers will continue to play a crucial role in spreading information. The spread of info on its own has a radicalizing factor that can encourage other members in the “offline world” to take action.

BM: Do you envision any major changes in the region for 2010?

HH: Many people are looking at 2010 for it’s the year of the elections, and put so much hope on it. My hope for the coming year 2010 lies in my faith in the labor movement’s ability to develop its industrial action to an organized political force, which can pose a real challenge to the Mubarak’s dictatorship.